Eric Winston Q&A

Sophomore Eric Winston has successfully made the move to offensive tackle from tight end. He talks about the first part of the season and a number of other topics leading up to the big showdown in Tallahassee this weekend.

How are things going overall for you this season with the move to the offensive line?
It is going well, I'm having fun out there and progressing well and steadily improving each day. I earned the offensive game ball for the West Virginia game along with Kellen Winslow so that was nice to get. There is no certain criteria to get one that I know of but the coaches feel that I was one of them. I'm not even sure what the criteria is (laughing) but I'll take that honor any time.

What is your take on the struggles of the offense at times this season?
I call it ‘getting over the humps' and on offense we haven't quite gotten over the humps yet. We've gotten close, I think we are there. I think what we have been doing well is moving the ball. I don't think there has been any game where we cannot move the ball and are going three and out. I think what we have not been doing is going the extra 20 yards after we've moved it 50 or 60 yards and getting the touchdown instead of maybe the field goal. I think that was real apparent in the West Virginia game. We had 450 yards of offense or 475 yards. However many yards it was I mean when you get over that 400 mark you are doing some pretty good things on offense. To only score 20 points something is a little off. We were down there all night and we were moving the ball all night and we need to start punching it in. We need to suck it up a little more and get those last 20 yards. Whatever is going on we just need to start scoring touchdowns because if you really look at it we scored six times. When talking to someone and you say Miami scored six times they are going to think big numbers. You take three of those field goals or however many we kicked up close and turn them into touchdowns and it's really not much of a game. That's the way I look at it and that's the way I think a lot of our team looks at it. I think a lot of the offensive players know we are close but we have to go that extra mile and we have to put in that extra effort to get there.

Is there anything glaring that needs to be fixed in your opinion?
I think everyone on the offense just needs to take it up just a little bit more. When you are in the red zone and it is a limited area and the defense can definitely stack up on the ball and cover a lot of area it is tough because they don't have to worry about being beat deep. I think everybody just needs to take it up at their position a little more. You can't really say any time we've failed to score in the red zone that it was the wide receiver's fault or the offensive line's fault. It was everyone's fault. Everybody was messing up at one time or another and nobody is perfect out there. Sometimes our offensive line is not blocking and a lot of times we're doing a pretty good job. Sometimes the running back is going above and beyond and sometimes maybe they're not hitting the hole right. It's a lot of things and that's why I call it getting over the humps offensively. When we're up there I think we are real close but right now we have to go the extra mile and just get over the hump and I hope it is this weekend because we're going to need to.

With Florida State this weekend, what will be key to getting the win?
Just play smart and technically sound. Those are the things I think when you're playing an athletic team with veteran players that you have to do. You have to be smart and you have to play technically sound. I think if you are technically sound then that will allow you to overcome any weaknesses you have. If it is a stalemate where they are just as talented as you are I think being technically sound will allow you to get the job done more often. And I think if we are smart out there and we're making the right calls along the offensive line, calling the right audibles, choosing the right guy to throw and the running backs are taking the right path I think we'll be fine. Playing smart and being technically sound are two things that will help us out a lot this week. We just have to continue to do what we've been doing all year and just keep moving the ball real well and in the end pout it in for a touchdown. Those kinds of things. I think we have to play a great game against FSU, especially at their place. They are no slouches and especially this year they have a great team and we're going to have to play a great game to beat them but it's one of those deals that doing one thing is not always going to get it done so to play a great game you have to do everything to get ready for it. We've worked hard this week and hopefully it will be enough I think it will be enough to come out there and get a victory.

What were your thoughts following the West Virginia game?
I never apologize for winning, I'll tell you that much (laughing). I'm one of those guys that looks at the fact that we found a way to win and there's still a lot of stuff to clean up. Everyone's real quick to tell us hat a bad team we have; it was just small areas that really hurt us. The red zone offense really hurt us. We convert things like that or the defense scores off of turnovers, it's not going to be close. Even on your bad days you have to be good enough to win and I think that is a mark of a good team. When you don't have everything you are still good enough to win. I think that is important. We found a way to win and that's what it is all about. Five year's from now no one's going to remember that we kicked five goals and won in the last second. It will go down in the record books as a ‘W' and that's what matters. I'd rather play bad and win then play good and lose I'll tell you that much.

With Frank Gore out for the year do you feel any added pressure to step up as a unit up front to aid the running game?
I don't feel like that. It isn't just the running game. We're trying to help the offense out. We're trying to help Brock out and we're trying to help out the running back whoever it is back there by opening holes up. It was an unfortunate thing with Frank. I feel horrible for him because he has rehabbed so hard and he now has to go through it all over again. It's one of those deals that JP (Jarrett Payton) is confident back there and knows what he is doing. I think JG (Jason Geathers) has played it so long that he'll pick it up fast and he's got those game breaking qualities about him too so if you leave him a hole that is a little too wide he's going to bust it on you. Another thing that's good about JG is that when we're doing a lot of our shotgun single back stuff when we dump it off to him when he's playing running back, now it is like having a fifth receiver. That's going to be an interesting little wrinkle we're going to have in our offense maybe the rest of the season. All of the screens and stuff that when he is in the game it's like throwing it to the wide receiver and he has that game breaking ability. It will be interesting and you know everyone has to step up a little bit and take the place where Frank left off and I'm sure they'll do that.

Who has stood out as a leader on this team in your opinion?
I think Vilma's definitely a big leader. In the media he might not talk a whole lot but he speaks when he needs to speak and he definitely speaks up when he feels something is not right. I think Kevin Beard's been a good leader for us. He's really coached the young wide receivers a lot and is making sure they are doing the right things and running the right routes and stuff. Brock's been a good leader in the sense that he is one of those guys that goes out there and puts in the work and just loves to be out there. You see him doing what he is doing and having a lot of fun doing it you kind of get encouraged by that. He's been that way. Chris Myers has an excellent work ethic and we can all learn after him a lot. There's a lot of good guys out there and maybe there isn't that one single definite leader for the entire team but you know sometimes you don't want just one guy. I think we have a nice mix of leaders out there that guys can look up to and look at and know what the right thing to do it. I think that is important and that is the main key.

What are some of the areas you need to improve on to get to the point you'd like to be as a player?
I don't know if there is a specific pecking order. I'd like to do a lot of things a lot better. I know I need to work on my punch for pass protecting. That is an important thing that is going to take work from now on and I'm sure I'll be working on that in the spring ball and then all of next year because it's one of those things for me that doesn't really come natural. Some people have no problems with it but I'm working on it. I feel like my footwork is real good and has been helping me out a lot. Finishing the plays and making sure the defender doesn't come anywhere near the play is a main key. Like I said, I'm not one of those guys that likes to take one or two things. I think you need to work on certain things more than others but there is always room for improvement in all things. There is always room for improvement on my footwork even. Sometimes it's not exactly put me in the best position. Sometimes you want to read defenses a little bit better. I'm not going to circle in on one or two things but I'll circle in on a large range of things I want to do. One day I'll try to get better and the next day I'll try to get better than the day before. For me it is a constant process. I don't want to be good at one thing; I want to be good at everything. I think that takes constant improvement on everything you do as an offensive lineman.

How have some of the younger offensive linemen performed in your opinion this season along the line?
I don't really think you can consider Joel Rodriguez a young guy. I mean he has played a lot and maybe he didn't have all those reps last year but mentally I think he was doing pretty good on that one coming into the season. The game is probably 70% mental up front. All he needed to do was get some reps and he was right there. I think Joel definitely stepped up and is playing well of late even though he played pretty well earlier in the season. Rashad [Butler] was a pleasant surprise. Not to say that it was a surprise that he did well. I was really comfortable with him coming into the Florida game when he was going to be the starter and I felt like he could definitely help us through the test. He had a pretty good spring and he just came out it two-a-days and worked real hard and he's gotten a ton better. He provides great depth on the offensive line for us. Alex Pou's had a chance and he'd done well. Now that Vernon's [Carey] back and healthy and stuff the burden won't be on his shoulders so he can continue to work and get better. It's just a constant learning process for those guys and for a young offensive lineman sometimes it a case of the light comes on you start grasping everything and start getting into it. You have to be happy with getting young guys like freshmen and sophomores into the game and playing well.

How is the ankle holding up that you injured at BC?
I got it caught on the turf at BC and it turned pretty good. My body kept going and my ankle stayed right there. For the West Virginia game it felt fine so I've had some treatment on it and I never think about it any more to tell you the truth.

What are you majoring in?
I'm doing Finance and Political Science.

Everything going well off the field and in the classroom?
Yea, it's been good.

What are your career goals after college?
There is a lot of stuff. I'd love to play in the NFL, I think it'd be fun. Not just because of the money but just getting to play football for a living you know. That kind of stuff is not fair you know (laughing). I just love the game and like to try and get better so I just love to put the pads on and working hard so getting to do something like that and getting paid real well for it is definitely a goal. I'd love to do that. I'd like to coach a little bit I think. Coaching and politics is definitely something I'd like to do also. There is a lot of stuff and I don't know what life is going to bring and stuff like that and I guess I'll just have to cross those bridges when I come to them but there is a lot of things out there that I'm interested in doing. I guess we'll just have to see what happens.

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